26 May, Saturday

It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0 or 5-0, Erdoğan says after narrow referendum win


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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has commented on the results of the April 16 constitutional referendum, in which the “yes” camp controversially won a slim victory, declaring that “a win is a win.”

“I come from a football background. It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0 or 5-0. The ultimate goal is to win the game,” Erdoğan told CNN on April 18.

Some 51.4 percent of the more than 58 million Turkish voters said “yes” to the charter amendment package in a tight race to decide on whether to shift to an executive presidential system.

In the interview, Erdoğan also criticized the European Union, which has bristled at his repeated support for the death penalty and raised concerns about how the referendum was conducted.

Addressing Turkey’s long-stalled bid to join the EU, Erdoğan accused its member states of failing to keep their side of the bargain. The EU had “made us wait at its door for 54 years,” Erdoğan said.

“From a political relationship point of view, this is not tolerable. We have tried hard to accept all the requirements of the EU... the EU has not kept its promises... the European Union must keep its promises,” he added. “If they do keep their promises we can sit down. We can see which steps are to be taken.”

Turkey has repeatedly clashed with EU leaders over a migrant deal to stem the flow of refugees leaving its shores for EU nations, complaining that Turkey is doing more than its part for refugees but getting nothing in return. 

Erdoğan also said that “his plans to assume sweeping new powers do not make him a dictator,” adding that the changes in the constitution package “weren’t about him.”

“I am a mortal really, I could die at any time. The system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey,” he said, while rejecting claims that “the new reforms were a step toward dictatorship.”

“Where dictatorships exist, you don’t have to have a presidential system. Here we have a ballot box... the democracy gets its power from the people. It’s what we call the national will,” he also said. 

Unlike European leaders who expressed reservations about the referendum, U.S. President Donald Trump telephoned Erdoğan to congratulate him on his victory. The call was well received by Erdoğan, who suggested taking things further.

“It would be better to have a face-to-face meeting and take our relationship forward,” he said.

Asked if he felt the U.S. and Turkey could work together, Erdoğan said: “The way President Trump is approaching these matters makes us happy. The U.S. and Turkey as allies... can resolve significant problems. We do not have any difficulties on that front.”

Hurriyet Daily

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